Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 12, 2020

What We’re Reading

The "Deal of the Century" Watch

Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Isn’t New. It Plagiarized a 40-Year-Old Israeli Initiative.,

Yehuda Shaul writes, “U.S. President Donald Trump and his top aides pride themselves on thinking outside the box and boldly challenging conventional wisdom. “We’ve taken an unconventional approach,” Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the architect of the recently released U.S. Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, boasted of his work. ‘If people focus on the old, traditional talking points, we will never make progress,’ he argued. But the Trump plan is actually as traditional as it gets. In fact, it bears striking resemblance to another plan published more than 40 years ago. In 1979, the World Zionist Organization released a plan titled “Master Plan for the Development of Settlements in Judea and Samaria, 1979–1983,” written by Matityahu Drobles, a former member of the Knesset for the Herut-Liberal Bloc—a precursor to today’s Likud party—and the head of the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division, the body responsible for planning and building settlements. His plan was basically a detailed attempt to execute the then-Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan for settlement expansion—a task that successive Israeli governments carried out with great zeal over the following four decades, placing 640,000 settlers in key areas throughout the West Bank. Trump’s vision is actually Drobles 2.0.”

Op-Ed: Annexations in Israel and India would threaten the very idea of international law,

“Now, as most of the world looks on with dismay, the Trump administration has decided to overturn decades of U.S. foreign policy — and the preponderance of international legal opinion — to encourage and condone the actions of the Netanyahu regime. He has done the same with Modi, who has moved toward de facto annexation of Kashmir. And, of course, Trump has repeatedly praised and embraced Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces illegally invaded Crimea in 2014. It is easy to treat each of these cases in isolation, but in fact they are part of a larger scheme fomented by the world’s current crop of illiberal leaders to undo the foundations of international law. For them, the enemy of their form of chauvinistic ethno-nationalism is the international legal order. Recent acts in India and Israel threaten the very idea of international law as a constraint against a nation unilaterally seizing territory from its adversaries. What is left of international law — not to mention, of decency and justice — if this principle is allowed to wither?”


Report: Hamas halts balloon bomb attacks as part of Gaza agreement,

“According to Al-Quds newspaper, which is affiliated with the Fatah movement, a message was sent Tuesday morning to all cells carrying out balloon attacks, following a meeting in Gaza between the Hamas leadership and Egyptian mediators trying to negotiate a long-term ceasefire arrangement between the terror group and Israel….The Egyptian delegation arrived in Gaza on Monday morning and met with Hamas leaders then. They gave Hamas a message from Israel that if there were not quiet in Gaza, Israel would deliver a tough blow to the organization, something that Egypt is warning would have both American and international support. Hamas, for its part, made clear to members of the delegation that it was not interested an escalation but that there would not be quiet on the border so long as there were delays in reaching an understanding and implementing relief measures for the Gazan population. Hamas also warned Israel that an assassination or another rash military step would lead to a major and extensive round of fighting. The group’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, skipped the Monday meeting with the Egyptian delegation due to growing fears within the terror group that Israel was planning to assassinate him.”

Gaza-Israel feud escalates, but cautiously,

“The Israeli army continued bombing Hamas targets this week in the Gaza Strip, which army spokesman Avichai Edrei said comes in response to rockets and incendiary balloons being launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. Israel’s retaliation for earlier volleys included authorities’ decision Feb. 2 to keep cement from entering the Gaza Strip and reduce the number of Gaza merchants allowed to enter Israel. On Feb. 5, Israel decided to reduce the fishing zone in the Gaza Strip from 15 nautical miles to 10.”

PM threatens Hamas with dire ‘surprise’; Gaza answers with fresh rocket attack,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday threatened Hamas leaders with ‘the surprise of their lives’ if a spate of attacks from the Gaza Strip didn’t come to an end. Minutes later, yet another rocket was fired from Gaza at Israel’s south. ‘I’m telling you as prime minister, I don’t rush to war,’ Netanyahu said in an interview with Channel 20 on Tuesday night. ‘I don’t puff out my chest, bang drums and blow trumpets. But we’re preparing for Hamas the surprise of their lives. I won’t say what it is, but it will be different from anything that came before.’ Whether Israel carries out its ‘surprise,’ he added, ‘is entirely up to them. If they don’t come to their senses with the rockets and don’t stop the balloons, it’s only a matter of time before we deploy it. Remember what I’m telling you,’ he said.”

Occupation & Human Rights

Business Center for E. Jerusalem Arabs Halted Over Jewish Neighbors' Objections,

“Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin decided last week to suspend plans for a commercial center next to the Palestinian neighborhood of Umm Tuba in southeastern Jerusalem because Jewish residents of the nearby Har Homa neighborhood objected. Some of the opponents of the plan for the center, which was slated to include offices and other commercial space, have argued that the project would lead to the “mixing of populations” and pose a danger to young women from Har Homa.”

'This will affect everyone': Israel and Palestine ramp up escalating trade war,

“It has been five days since the last Israel-bound truck took away its container of produce from the Palestinian village of Tammoun, in the northeastern West Bank, and the crates of potatoes and onions are piling up. It is an unusual sight for the transit area, which is the last stop between local farmers from Tammoun and the surrounding areas, and traders who export to Israel. But ever since Israel halted the import of Palestinian produce last week, the site of piled up food has become an unfortunate reality…The Palestinian and Israeli economies, especially when it comes to agricultural imports and exports, are highly co-dependent. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, Palestinian agricultural exports to Israel last year amounted to around $88m, more than two-thirds of the West Bank’s overall exported produce. It is estimated that PA imports from Israel are worth tens of billions of shekels a year, while Israel imports some 700 million shekels ($205m) worth of goods from the PA annually. ‘We rely heavily on the traders who export to Israel,’ Mutawi said, ‘but we haven’t seen them since Trump’s plan was released’.”

Israeli soldier who killed Palestinian teen was not in danger, video suggests,

“On Friday last week, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 19-year-old Badr Nafla in the West Bank village of Qaffin, during a protest near the separation barrier. Following the shooting, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson claimed that ‘during a riot, soldiers spotted a Palestinian throwing a molotov cocktail toward them, and fired back in order to counter the threat.’ However, video footage of the incident, along with witness testimony, tell a different story. A short clip posted to social media not long after the shooting shows a few dozens Palestinians gathered in the area, throwing stones and burning tires. A military jeep slowly approaches the scene, and shortly after single shots can be heard, followed by cries for help in Arabic. Nafla is then evacuated from the scene by ambulance. According to a Palestinian man present at the demonstration, who spoke with Local Call during Nafla’s funeral the day after the shooting, the soldier who fired the shot was not in danger.”

International Community

Ex-Qatari PM: Israel & Gulf states to sign non-aggression pact soon,

“Qatar’s former prime minister claimed on Monday that a non-aggression pact between Gulf states and Israel will soon be signed and may include the North-African country of Morocco. In a statement posted to Twitter, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim declared that ‘On December 14 last year, I posted a tweet in which I spoke about the deal of the century and said that it would announce the beginning of this year. Now it will be followed by a non-aggression agreement between Israel and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council in addition to Egypt, Jordan and possibly Morocco.’ The former Qatari politician noted that he was ‘not against’ such an agreement with Israel, and believed the unanimous decision taken by the Arab League to reject the deal last week was not in the best interest of the region. ‘Although there are Arab countries that promised the American side that they would take a positive position on the deal, but they did not, and they justified this by saying that they could not because of the media,’ said Jassim.”

Abbas at UN gives muted rejection to Trump ‘annexation’ plan,

“But while rejecting Trump’s proposal as an Israeli-designed ‘annexation’ plan, Abbas also rejected violence and called for Israeli-Palestinian peaceful coexistence. ‘Let us coexist in peace,’ he said. ‘Trump and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu are not waiting for the Palestinian approval on this deal,’ Abbas said in an English translation of his remarks to the UN Security Council provided by the Palestinian mission to the UN. ‘The announcement came as a provocative short notice for the Palestinian people that this Israeli/American vision is already underway to confiscate/annex what remains on the ground’.”

US celebrates withdrawal of UN Security Council resolution against peace plan,

“By not putting forward a polarizing resolution, the United Nations Security Council demonstrated that the old way of doing things is over,” a senior Trump official told The Times of Israel. “For the first time on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the Council was willing to think outside the conventional box, and not reflexively fall back on the calcified Palestinian position, which has only allowed the failed status quo to continue.”

Palestinian Politics

Public Opinion Poll No (75),

“This quarterly poll was conducted one month earlier than planned in order to measure, in a timely manner, the immediate public response to the American plan known as the “Deal of the Century.” Findings show a Palestinian consensus against the plan as a package and against each of its components, including the economic part if linked to acceptance of the political section of the plan. Moreover, more than 80% of the public believe that the plan has returned the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to its existential roots. The majority speculates that the Trump plan has been deliberately designed to ensure a Palestinian rejection in order for the US to allow Israel to unilaterally annex the Jordan valley and the Jewish settlements.  Findings also show that two-thirds of the public support president Abbas’ policy against the plan. But the majority, ranging between two-thirds and three quarters, does not trust the president’s word, as it believes he will not implement his own decision to end relations with Israel and the US. In response to the Trump plan, the overwhelming majority wants the president to end the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, to withdraw PA recognition of Israel, to end security coordination, to stop the implementation of the Oslo agreement, and to even resort to armed struggle. Findings also show unprecedented decline in support for the two-state solution to less than 40%, the lowest reported by PSR since the signing of the Oslo agreement. They also show a rise in the percentage of those who think that the most effective means of ending the occupation is armed struggle; they also show a decline in the percentage of those who think negotiation is the most effective means. In domestic matters, finding show a decline in Abbas’ popularity and that of Fatah compared to our findings two-months ago. They also show a rise in the popularity of Hamas’ Ismael Haniyyeh during the same period. If presidential elections were to take place today, 50% would vote for Haniyyeh. Findings also show a drop in the level of optimism regarding the prospects of holding of parliamentary elections soon. But optimism about the prospects for reconciliation increases a little compared to two months ago and about half of the public indicates that if elections were to take place today, they would contribute to the reunification of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”


Filmmaker who wouldn’t sign Georgia’s Israel oath sues state,

“’Ms. Martin’s concerns appear to be related to requirements of a state law enacted in 2016,’ Lester said in a statement. The law ‘requires that anyone who wants to contract with the state of Georgia for services worth more than $1,000 sign an oath pledging that they will not boycott the lsraeli government,’ said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Georgia. ‘That oath applies whether you are a substitute teacher who wants to work for our public school system, whether you are a construction worker who wants to build something for our state, or whether you are a journalist who wants to speak at a state university,’ Mitchell said. ‘Imagine if during the Civil Rights movement, the state of Alabama passed a law saying if you want to work for our state, you can not participate in the Montgomery bus boycott,’ he added.”

Israel summons Belgian envoy over UN invite to controversial activist,

“Israel summoned a top Belgian diplomat on Tuesday over his country’s push to have a civil society activist, seen by the Jewish state as biased, address the UN Security Council. Belgium, which holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency, has invited Brad Parker of Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), to speak in front of the United Nations’ highest body. It was the second time this week that Pascal Buffin, number two at the Belgian embassy, had been summoned by Israel’s foreign ministry, Israeli officials said.”

Israeli Domestic Politics

Gantz: Joint List won’t be part of my coalition, which will implement Trump plan,

“Blue and White Party chief Benny Gantz on Tuesday ruled out including the predominantly Arab Joint List in any future coalition and declared that he would implement the Trump administration’s peace plan if elected in the upcoming national vote. But Gantz, a former army chief of staff, came out against provisions of the White House deal that suggested Arab Israeli towns could become part of a future Palestinian state. Touring Arab Israeli communities in the country’s north, Gantz rejected the prospect of partnering with the alliance of four majority-Arab parties in any future government…Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded Tuesday, saying in a Twitter post that Gantz ‘was misleading the public. Without the support in the Knesset of [MKs] Ahmad Tibi, Ayman Odeh and the Joint List, Gantz won’t be able to form a government. Blue and White voters are switching to Likud because they know that only Likud under my leadership can form a strong and safe right-wing government’.”

Can Netanyahu spin right-wing annexation war to his advantage?,

“The squabbling in the Cabinet meeting and Netanyahu’s jabs at Yamina ministers might suggest that the right-wing is in chaos and that the prime minister is losing his temper over it, but the truth is that the possibility of the disappointed annexationists to cause real harm to the right-wing bloc is limited. Furthermore, as much as the settlers and Yamina leaders keep taking jabs at Netanyahu, by warning him that without annexation, the right will lose power, their ability to force him to do what they want is also limited. Right-wing voters have nowhere else to go, and Netanyahu is well aware of this. The chances of voters from the ideological right crossing party lines and voting Blue and White are practically nil. That is why Netanyahu feels at liberty to do what he wants with Yamina. The truth is that Netanyahu has been picking a fight with Yamina and Bennett, the party’s chair, for the past few days. He is doing so to persuade Yamina voters to cast their ballots for the Likud instead, so he can reduce the gap between his party and Blue and White. He considers Yamina to be an easy target, with seats ready for him to pick off, and unlike in the April 2019 and September 2019 elections, Netanyahu is not waiting until the final days of the campaign to do it. He is already working to win over voters from the right. At an election rally in the Jordan Valley on Feb. 10, Netanyahu said that the real reason he appointed Bennett as defense minister was to ensure that he doesn’t ‘go with [Blue and White leader Benny] Gantz.’ He went on to say, ‘Blue and White almost had a coalition, but then, at the last minute, I made the move of appointing Bennett to Defense’.”

Israel’s president warns: Security decisions are politically motivated,

“Once in a while, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin takes a stance, criticizes political and diplomatic decision-making in Israel and speaks sharply against phenomena of incitement and violence toward various populations in Israel. In his direct and courageous statements Rivlin wishes to return Israel to the path of sanity and reason, and for this he receives an outpouring of vitriol — from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the last extreme right-wing activist. In 2017, they even called him a “Nazi convert” and dressed him in a keffiyeh; in 2014, a photo appeared with him wearing an SS uniform.”

Gantz’s Slap in the Face to All Democratic Israelis,

“Kahol Lavan was formed as an alternative to the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but now, with little differences but certain nuances of style, it isn’t clear why Gantz’s party should be preferred over the current regime. It’s true that Gantz hasn’t been charged with corruption, but a political alternative must present a full and complete political program – not just be a cheap, pale version of what’s already in place. After the last election, Odeh took a brave step by getting most Joint List legislators to recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Gantz be prime minister. Odeh also presented a civic agenda aimed at improving the quality of life for Israeli Arab citizens. Gantz and Odeh could lead a dramatic change that Israel needs just as much as Israelis need air to breathe. By cooperating they could offer a way to heal the wounds that years of the violent, racist and inflammatory Netanyahu government have inflicted on Israeli society. But by tilting rightward, Kahol Lavan has chosen to leave the Arabs’ outstretched hand hanging.”

Far-right party claims Netanyahu offered to help it enter Knesset,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to aid the extremist Otzma Yehudit party enter the Knesset, with his aides offering to help it pass the electoral threshold in the upcoming election in exchange for the far-right leader promising not to run if the party’s effort was nevertheless unsuccessful and if an additional election was called, Itamar Ben Gvir said Wednesday. Ben Gvir, who has resisted heavy pressure to withdraw from the race amid fears his party could end up ‘wasting’ tens of thousands of right-wing votes if it fell short of the electoral threshold, made the remark in a radio interview with the Kan public broadcaster.”